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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

First Principles                 317

obvious that our free-will is often overridden by force of
circumstances while the evidence that necessity is overridden
by free-will is harder to find (if indeed it can be found, for
I have not fully considered the matter), most people who
theorise upon this question will deny in theory that there is
any free-will at all, though in practice they take care to
act as if there was. For if we admit that like causes are
followed by like effects (and everything that we do is based
upon this hypothesis), it follows that every combination of
causes must have some one consequent which can alone
follow it and which free-will cannot touch.

(Yes, but it will generally be found that free-will entered
into ithe original combination and the repetition of the com-
bination will not be exact unless a like free-will is repeated
along with all the other factors.)

From which it follows that free-will is apparent only, and
that, as I said years ago in Erewhon, we are not free to choose
what seems best on each occasion but bound to do so, being
fettered to the freedom of our wills throughout our lives.

But to deny free-will is to deny moral responsibility, and
we are landed in absurdity at once—for there is nothing
more patent than that moral responsibility exists. Never-
theless, at first sight, it would seem as though we ought not
to hang a man for murder if there was no escape for him but
that he must commit one. Of course the answer to one who
makes this objection is that our hanging him is as much a
matter of necessity as his committing the murder.

If, again, necessity, as involved in the certainty that like
combinations will be followed by like consequence, is a
basis on which all our actions are founded, so also is free-
will. This is quite as much a sine qua non for action as
necessity is; for who would try to act if he did not think
that his trying would influence the result ?

We have therefore two apparently incompatible and
mutually destructive faiths, each equally and self-evidently
demonstrable, each equally necessary for salvation of any
kind, and each equally entering into every thought and
action of our whole lives, yet utterly contradictory and

Can any dilemma seem more hopeless ? It is not a case
of being able to live happily with either were t'other dear